Exploring the Magic of Love in Music

Marium IhsanDecember 6, 2021LoveFeatures
Exploring the Magic of Love in Music

Artwork by Skylar Liu

Music is magic. Love is magical.

Music, in its infinite wonder, feeds the emotional tree of the soul. It is undeniably the most abstract of the arts because of how closely it is related to the dimensions of time and space. Susan Buck-Morss in her book, The Origin of Negative Dialectics, states: “Music unfolds in a continuous, transitory present.” What's interesting to note is that human life, too, unfolds in a transitory present, and the allure of music lies in the fact that it is an embodiment of the rhythm of time in itself. Its melodic ebb and flow that blossoms into marvelous symphonies is similar to the rhythmic alternations between birth, growth, decay, and death.

The attraction to music is derived from the familiarity that is inherent within music. Music, in many ways, is a simulation of our lives. Once it commences, it is obligated to go further, to grow and develop, to become something new. Just like that, unlike other forms of art, music directly embodies the passage of life. As time progresses, one is invited to transcend the previous stages of development, to grow, and doing so gives meaning to one's life. Every song represents life, every song is a singular entity like an individual themself, and every song has a lifespan of its own. From the moment it begins, to the climactic chorus, to the turning points in the bridge, every song has a course of life of its own. A listener draws a sense of familiarity to their own life by the emotions felt and observed through the music.

Love and music are two lights of one candle. Throughout history, countless songs have been written about love simply because of how familiar a feeling it is, but also because of how powerful an emotion it can be. Human beings are governed and driven by their emotions; the feeling of being loved, being in love, or loving something is one that most yearn for. Music portrays that feeling, but through melodies, rhythms, tunes, and lyrics.

A study titled "Music and Emotions in the Brain: Familiarity Matters" states a phenomenon, known in literature as the mere exposure effect, which suggests that familiarity might play an important role in the emotional engagement of listeners with the music. Love is more than a familiar feeling, it is a feeling felt by all, even the most isolated of individuals. Whether it be love for self, platonic, romantic, familial, or passion for a celebrity, it is known to most. The reason most music centers itself around the foundation of love is because of how easy it is for listeners to connect and emotionally attach themselves to songs that mirror instances within their own lives. The similarity between “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong, “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston, and “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift is that they were created about love and acting out of love. They resonate with people because of how familiar these feelings may be or because of how hopelessly one longs for this kind of love.

“Spiegel im Spiegel.” “Mirror in the Mirror.” A popular composition by Estonian composer Arvo Part. The Arvo Part Centre describes it by saying that “the structure of the piece follows a strict formula, where no note is left to chance. The title directly reflects what is happening in the music: each ascending melodic line is followed by a descending mirror phrase. Initially, the melody consists of only two notes, with another note being added with each of the following phrases, thus creating a seemingly endless continuum.” Even though the 10-minute-long composition has no lyrics, it undoubtedly invokes overwhelming emotions when listened to. Some may ask, what does this have to do with love and music? The piece was written by Part as he departed from his homeland of Estonia and is one of his last compositions. That leads me to believe that it is inherently and evidently about love. The love that he felt for his home, the sense of belonging and warmth he felt, and how dearly he loved the place he called home. It is because of how immensely he loved his home that the loss of it was all the more painful.

It is noteworthy that, without the use of words, this story unwinds itself into a tale of love turning to pain turning to a forgotten love hidden in memories of childhood. Arvo Part, in this composition, tells a story of love for his home through the minimalistic approach of using only a violin and a piano. However, the purpose of the composition isn't just to emphasize his attachment to his homeland but to illustrate the unimaginable pain of losing this home. A pain that when expressed through mere words would be watered down, its extremity not portrayed in the same manner it could have been through the mixing of two melancholic instruments. Love is magic because it is more than a sweet feeling of warmth and comfort, and music is magical because it speaks of pain as much as it does of warmth. Just as in the case of “Spiegel im Spiegel,” music and love intertwine to speak what cannot be spoken through alphabets.

Another brilliant example of the togetherness of love and music is a Punjabi folk song, “Paar Chanaa De,” meaning “Across the River Chenab.” The song portrays the story of Soni, the daughter of a potter. A trader visits the pottery shop and falls in love with Soni. While the tale seems like an unfortunate ending for ill-fated lovers, it stresses how they are united in the afterlife, thus able to freely express their love for each other. What's special about this folk song is that the listener cannot help but feel tearful yet at the same time smile at how timeless this seemingly “tragic” love was; in death, they found eternal love.

This story would be great for any novel, perhaps a best-selling Pakistani spin-off of Romeo and Juliet. However, there is a reason it is expressed as a song and not as a book. A book does not consider the impact the incorporation of a sitar can have on the mood of the song, nor does a book consider how stretching notes can convey the longing desperation of two lovers struggling to stay afloat as currents carry them to their demise. A book works on its own, it works on the linguistic power of the author. Music never acts alone; it is a harmonious mix of emotive lyrics, the tone of voice, and the inclusion of subsequent instruments. That is partially why music evokes where words cannot and moves in ways words will never be able to.

“Spiegel im Spiegel” and “Across the River Chenab” are polar opposite in their messages, one a minimalist composition, the other a traditional folk song about star-crossed lovers. However, what correlates them is that they are key representatives of the boundless power of music. Both songs are based upon love, whether it be the feelings attached to a place you call home or the struggle to be with someone you love. They are stories that grow and develop, and as they do the listener tears up, feels nostalgic reminiscing about similar instances within their own lives, and eventually smiles because they overcame this journey. They are symbolic of themes of love but also of pain, both all-consuming emotions where the listener feels what the musician wishes to portray.

The reason why musicians across the world choose to write and create music about love is that it is a feeling so great that it can often not be described through just words. It tells a story that requires one to listen and it demands that you feel exactly what the musician felt while writing that song or composing that melody. In doing so, you imagine yourself in another world far from yours, unique to each song and in a world governed by this emotional state. Its allure lies in how familiar a feeling it can be but also in how magical it can be in all its power. Whether it be a song about overcoming obstacles and coming to love oneself, whether it be about the love you have for someone else or relating to the love and feeling attached to something you hold dear to your heart, these are all instances and emotions that are felt by most people throughout their lives.

Emotions of love flow just like music; they change with time, undergoing change and shaping the narrative of our stories, but they also come to an end, sometimes an end that gives us comfort and sometimes an unpleasant, tragic ending. Love, like music, is about sincerity, clarity, and being pure in nature. Perhaps, these similar qualities are what relate love and music so closely that love songs have become a genre of music on their own, or perhaps the similarities between the two make writing, composing, and creating messages of love easier to deliver with music. Music provides assurance that the listener will in some shape or form be able to understand and associate themselves with the piece, making them come back to it time and time again, founding a relationship between the artist, the art, and the listener. A relationship of love, out of love, about being in love.

It is because these messages of love are so understandable and so relatable that this relationship between love and music is so comprehensive.

I find myself asking this question: If love were not magical, would music still be magic?


Olivier, Bert. “What's the Connection between Music and Love?” Thought Leader, Mail & Guardian Media Ltd, 18 Oct. 2010, https://thoughtleader.co.za/music-and-love/.

Pereira, Carlos Silva, et al. “Music and Emotions in The Brain: Familiarity Matters.” PLOS ONE - Public Library of Science, 16 Nov. 2011, https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0027241.

“Paar Chanaa De Lyrics Translation, Meaning, & Story.” GAANA GIRL, 9 Nov. 2016, https://gaanagirl.wordpress.com/2016/09/19/paar-chanaa-de-lyrics-translation-meaning-story/.

"Spiegel Im Spiegel." Arvo Pärt Centre, n.d., https://www.arvopart.ee/en/arvo-part/work/544/.

Marium Ihsan is a 15-year-old from Lahore, Pakistan, who enjoys writing articles about topics she is passionate about and exploring new and interesting areas of science.